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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Utopia on the Small Screen: How Political-Theological Thought Translates into Digital Community Organizing

luncheon colloquium

utopia map

Christian Henkel
Tübingen University 

Date: Thursday, September 20, 2018
Time: 12-1:15pm
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road

RSVP required. Click here to register.

Abstract: In the digital age, yesterday’s grand utopias have morphed into small-scale utopias as technological entrepreneurs pick up alternative visions of society and scale them down into apps and digital services. “Utopia on the small screen” is already happening as we use our phones to monitor our healthy lifestyle, transform our houses into smart homes, and connect with others to occupy Wall Street.  Henkel's research focuses on how political theologians – with years of community organizing and the struggle against the concrete realities of communal politics behind them – could speak meaningfully about these developments. Its starting point will be to show where we already engage in small-scale utopian thinking through the usage of digital tools and how political theology with its emphasis on the “already and not yet” can contribute new ideas to engage more deeply with our surroundings, the way we treat our bodies, the place where we live, and the connections we make. He will end his investigations by proposing a series of small-scale interventions, named “the Faithlab”, that seek to revitalize political theological thinking in an inner-city community.  

christian henkel

Christian Henkel is a Visiting Scholar at the Boisi Center and a Researcher and Executive Director at the Institute for Ecumenical and Interreligious Research at Tuebingen University in Germany. His interests focus on political theology and its connections with questions of migration, digitization, and faith-based community organizing. Recent publications include, “Turn over the table? Practices of faith-based lobbying for undocumented migrants" In Menschenrechte in der Katholischen Kirche. Ed. by Marianne Heimbach-Steins. and "On Charismatic Influencers and Christian Filter-Bubbles" In forum erwachsenenbildung 51.2, pp. 31–35. Henkel received his Ph.D. from the University of Muenster (Germany).

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2016 article in the Washington Post reflects on the way we use technology and the need to step back and maintain perspective on its role in our lives. Sparked by several movements encouraging individuals to take “digital Sabbaths,” the article offers reasons why we ought to monitor technology use, as well as practical ways to take time to “reset”. On September 20th, visiting scholar Christian Henkel from Tübingen University will present at our luncheon colloquium on the insights political theology can offer regarding technology and the various ways we make use of it.